Richard joins NewsTalk 1010 host Jim Richards on the coast-to-coast-to-coast late night “Showgram” to play the game “Did Richard Crouse like these movies?” This week we talk about to talk about the much anticipated “Sopranos” prequel “The Many Saints of Newark,” the latest adventures of the Gomez, Morticia and Company in the animated “The Addams Family 2” and the Jake Gyllenhaal thriller “The Guilty.”
“The Many Saints of Newark,” the sprawling big-screen prequel to the iconic television series “The Sopranos,” feels more like a pilot for a new show than the origin story of one of television’s most famous families.
Broken into three parts, “The Many Saints of Newark,” uses narration, courtesy of Tony Soprano’s late associate Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli), to break down the movie’s interconnected story shards.
Firstly, there is Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), Soprano Family soldier, father of Christopher, cousin to Carmela Soprano, uncle to Tony. He’s hooked up, wily and impulsive but also treacherous. When his father, the slick sociopath ‘Hollywood Dick’ (Ray Liotta), returns from Italy with a new bride (Michela De Rossi), it triggers chaos in the Moltisanti family.
In Dickie’s orbit is Harold McBrayer (Leslie Odom Jr.), an African-American numbers runner for the Mob, galvanized by the 1967 Newark race riots to go out on his own and, finally, Tony Soprano, played by William Ludwig as a youngster, Michael Gandolfini, the late James Gandolfini’s son, as a teenager. As Dickie’s thirst for power spins out of control, he becomes a surrogate father to Tony, hoping to pass along something good to the impressionable younger man as a way to atone for his sins.
“The Many Saints of Newark” is vivid in its portrayal of the period. Covering roughly four years, from 1967 to 1971, it uses the turmoil of that time in American life as a backdrop for the explosive nature of Dickie’s world. That atmosphere of uncertainty makes up for a story that, despite some glorious moments, often feels rushed as it careens toward an ending that doesn’t mine the rich psychological landscape of these characters, which is what we expect from David Chase and “The Sopranos.”
The actors are game.
Nivola brings equal parts charisma, danger and depth to a flawed character who is the ringmaster to the action. Unlike many of the other characters, like the conniving Junior Soprano (Corey Stoll), henchman Paulie Walnuts (Blly Magnussen) or consigliere Silvio Dante (John Magaro), who come with eighty-six episodes of baggage, Dickie is new and can be viewed through fresh eyes.
Michael Gandolfini takes on the Herculean task of revisiting a character his father made one of the most famous in television history and brings it home by showcasing the character’s volatility and, more importantly, his vulnerability. He’s a troubled kid, on the edge of turning one way or the other, and even though we know how the story goes, Gandolfini’s performance suggests there is more to know about Tony Soprano.
If there is a complaint, it’s that both Tony and McBrayer, two of the main cogs that keep this engine running, get lost in “The Many Saints of Newark’s” elaborate plotting. Ditto for the female characters. Despite tremendous work from Vera Farmiga as Tony’s poisonous mother Livia and De Rossi as Dickie’s step-mom, the women often feel peripheral to the tale, in service only to the men’s stories.
“The Many Saints of Newark” brings with it high expectations but falls short of coming close to the greatness of its source material. “The Sopranos” broke new ground, changing the way gangster stories (and all sorts of other stories) were told on television. “The Many Saints of Newark” settles for less as an exercise in nostalgia.
Richard joins CP24 to have a look at the weekend’s new movies including “The Lion King,” “The Farewell,” the documentary “Propaganda: The Art of Selling Lies” and the Jessie Eisenberg satire “The Art of Self-Defense.”
Richard sits in on the CTV NewsChannel with news anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s big releases including all-singing, all-animal “The Lion King,” the poignant family dramedy “The Farewell,” the timely documentary “Propaganda: The Art of Selling Lies” and the dark Jessie Eisenberg satire “The Art of Self-Defense” with CFRA Morning Rush guest host Matt Harris.
Richard has a look at the new movies coming to theatres, including the photo realistic “The Lion King,” the poignant family drama “The Farewell,” the timely documentary “Propaganda: The Art of Selling Lies” and the dark Jessie Eisenberg satire “The Art of Self-Defense” with CFRA Morning Rush guest host Matt Harris.
A weekly feature from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest and most interesting movies! This week Richard looks at the photo realistic “The Lion King”–“You will believe a meerkat can sing! And lions too!”–the poignant family drama “The Farewell” and the dark Jessie Eisenberg satire “The Art of Self-Defense.”
Remember the Charles Atlas 97-pound-weakling ads that used to run in the back of comic books? After a mild-mannered guy gets sand kicked in his face he transforms from “chump into a champ.” “The Art of Self-Defense,” a new dark comedy starring Jesse Eisenberg, blows this premise up to absurd proportions for the big screen.
Eisenberg is accountant Casey Davies, a loner whose only friend is his dachshund. One night, on a dog food run to the store, Casey is randomly attacked by a group of motorcycle thugs. While he whimpers, they beat the living tar out of him, leaving him hospitalized for weeks. Upon recovery he considers buying a gun for self-defense but instead takes up karate at a local dojo run by a charismatic sensei (Alessandro Nivola). “This is your belt,” he says. “It is yours, and it’s sacred. There’ll be a fifteen-dollar charge to replace a lost belt.”
What Casey doesn’t know is that the dojo is not simply a place to learn to punch and kick, but a dark and dangerous gateway to trouble where students, like Henry (David Zellner) and Anna (Imogen Poots), are brainwashed and manipulated by a walking, talking exemplar of toxic masculinity. “From now on, you listen to metal. It’s the toughest music there is.”
“The Art of Self-Defense” is a satire that plays with the idea of manhood and what it means to be a “man.” In the twisted sensei’s opinion, the direct path to empowerment is through violence. Any dissenters are written off as “weak” and dealt with. It is that single-mindedness and decisiveness that draws Casey into the dojo’s macho world.
Writer-director Riley Stearns creates interesting characters. Sensei is a chauvinistic caricature, a cruel teacher who believes that, “guns are for the weak.” Casey is an outsider whose character arc swings from one extreme to the other. Nivola and Eisenberg are interesting foils for one another, although Stearns’s insistence on having his characters speak in an affected monotone wears thin, even if they are occasionally saying interesting things.
“The Art of Self-Defense” will be comparted to “Fight Club” for its look at the reasons why men behave the way they do. The two films share themes of loneliness, societal breakdown and emasculation but they take very different roads to self-actualization. Both share a broad sense of humour—“The Art of Defense’s” climax is as unfunny as it is unexpected—but where David Fincher’s film was a phantasmagoric fantasy, the newer film is mired in a drab, everyday realism that feels at odds with its jarring, absurdist message.
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with host Andrew Carter to talk the new movies coming to theatres including “The Lion King”–“You will believe a meerkat can sing! And lions too!”–and the dark Jessie Eisenberg satire “The Art of Self-Defense.”
Richard joins CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund to have a look at the weekend’s new movies including “Wonder Park,” starring the voices of Jennifer Garner and John Oliver, “Gloria Bell” starring Julianne Moore, the morbid comedy “To Dust” starring Matthew Broderick and Géza Röhrig and the dystopian drama “Level 16.”